As much as I enjoy my job, there are rare moments when I am embarrassed to admit working in media. Usually this embarrassment kicks into overdrive whenever a journalist or outlet I admire runs a story on the Kardashians. (Or worse, gives a Kardashian a media job that could have gone to an unemployed actual journalist.)
But my embarrassment morphed into downright mortification as I watched respectable news outlets cover the birth of the royal baby with more gusto than most of them covered the Iraqi invasion.
I acknowledge that part of my lack of interest in the royal baby story has to do with the fact that I'm not English so it has less than zero impact on my life. But even if Michelle Obama gave birth I would find it odd if media covered one woman's experience doing what millions of women around the world do every day, as if it were some sort of religious miracle. Clearly I'm not alone in this thinking, since the ratings here in the U.S. for extended coverage of the royal birth proved disappointing for the networks that invested heavily in the story. (A revelation that caused my embarrassment at being a member of media to be surpassed by my pride at being an American.)
Aside from the fact that there are far more important stories we could be covering and audiences could be reading and watching, my other issue with the over-the-top coverage is that I am not a fan of celebrating women simply for marrying well or having a baby with someone wealthy and well-known. I think it is hard to justify ridiculing the cast members of Basketball Wives for not having an identity beyond the high profile men they are associated with, while we celebrate women who marry into royalty for doing the exact same thing and little else.
But while I could care less about when Kate Middleton (or anyone else for that matter), went into labor, how long she was in labor, what color her hospital bedroom was, what color her hospital gown was, what her mother wore to the hospital, what her sister wore, what her husband's first words were to her after the birth etc., it was only after the royal birth that I realized that Kate Middleton may have just done something extraordinary.
And it wasn't giving birth to the heir to the English throne.
Shortly after she emerged from the hospital, articles began being written about Midleton's appearance, which is typical. What is not so typical, is that articles specifically commented on her still visible post pregnancy paunch. As the articles, noted, in this age of 24-7 paparazzi shots, most high profile new mothers hide out until they get their figures back into photo ready mode. But Middleton didn't do that, instead showing what a real mother's body looks like immediately after birth, not the idealized version we're used to seeing that is the result of four weeks of intense workouts conducted in camera-free hiding with a personal trainer. Middleton's physique gave some pause, but it more likely gave plenty of others inspiration. I have never been pregnant but I know how most of us feel when we see a woman celebrated on a magazine cover for wearing a thong on a beach a couple of months after giving birth. I can't imagine how it must feel for those who have also recently given birth but don't have a full time personal trainer, nutritionist and chef, but instead have full-time jobs.
Which brings me to the most important thing Kate Middleton did this week. (You know, besides bringing a life into the world.) Days ago OK Magazine did what countless magazines have done to guarantee sales: it ran a cover story trumpeting secrets to post pregnancy weight loss. Then yesterday the magazine did what no magazine I know of has ever done: it apologized. The reason? Because of criticism that the timing of the story, which focused exclusively on how Middleton would regain her pre-pregnancy physique, was insulting to Middleton and her family. But I have always believed that stories judging a woman's body for the changes it undergoes when bringing a life into this world are insulting to all women, and yet they have become a media staple.
Here's hoping that thanks to Middleton's brave display and OK Magazine's shaming, that fewer new moms, famous or otherwise, will be shamed into focusing on anything other than being the best mom they can be, in the days, months, or even years, following the day they become mothers.
Keli Goff is a Special Correspondent for TheRoot.com and the author of The GQ Candidate.